BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube January 9, 2015



Next Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will name fast-track trade promotion authority as a top priority for the group, which represents more than 3 million American companies, Reuters reported.


"We are going to be putting a major push, a major campaign, behind getting trade promotion done as soon as possible," said the Chamber's senior international policy director, Christopher Wenk. "It's going to be around the clock."


The Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers are lobbying, too, for legislation that will be introduced this year.


In an op ed, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons wrote that the best way to facilitate new trade agreements that are important to manufacturers is to restore the president's fast-track negotiating authority that expired in 2007.


Fast-track, or trade promotion authority, allows the president to negotiate trade agreements and send them to Congress for an expedited vote, Timmons wrote. "Without fast-track, adopting new agreements just isn't feasible," he said.


Trade agreements create jobs and are extremely beneficial to U.S. manufacturers because with 95 percent of the world's consumers living outside the United States, manufacturers must reach growing global markets to stay competitive and create jobs, Timmons wrote.


"In addition to more trade agreements, we must fix our nation's antiquated export controls," Timmons wrote. "By modernizing that system, we can promote national security and also lift restrictions that hinder the export of high-tech products that are manufactured in the United States."


Read the bill summary and text (here).



U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt of Haleyville and Martha Roby of Montgomery have legislation to block President Obama's executive order on immigration. Aderholt said he'll introduce legislation to override Obama's decision to defer deportation of 5 million immigrants and Roby was to introduce legislation this week to block funding.


Aderholt's bill would resurrect the immigration enforcement program Secure Communities, which Obama ended. Under his bill, state and local government agencies would have to comply with so-called ICE detainers, in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks local law enforcement agencies to keep an illegal immigrant in custody, even if he or she would otherwise be released, POLITICO reported.


U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, said he'll support Aderholt's legislation to block funds for executive amnesty. "Simply providing the President with more money for 'border security' will be turned into a slush fund to resettle illegal immigrants in the interior of the United States," Sessions said.


Aderholt's legislation also would limit to humanitarian cases the use of so-called immigration parole, which gives the administration discretion on which illegal immigrants to allow into the United States. The bill also would allow response to a border crisis like last summer's when thousands of unaccompanied migrant children arrived from Central America.


Roby calls her bill "The Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act." It would block the Department of Homeland Security from funding the directives in Obama's executive order.


She said her bill will provide a good starting point for what will be a "broad and dynamic debate about how to address executive amnesty." Roby's bill, HR 31, would prohibit funding of initiatives announced by the president and the secretary of Homeland Security in November.


"It undermines the rule of law and threatens American jobs," Roby said of Obama's plan to grant amnesty.



The Senate on Thursday voted 93-4 to approve legislation reauthorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act for six years, sending the bill to President Obama, who is expected to sign it, The Hill reported.


The House passed the bill on Wednesday by a vote of 416-5. Alabama's seven House members and then the state's two U.S. senators voted for the bill. 


The Business Council of Alabama last year joined hundreds of organizations urging quick reauthorization of the law that expired Dec. 31. "American businesses need the backstop that the TRIA gives the marketplace and provides needed certainty so business can focus on its primary mission of creating jobs," said William J. Canary, President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama.


House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, wanted TRIA reforms that he said would better protect taxpayers in the event of a major terror strike. Hensarling pushed to double the amount of damage that businesses must incur during an attack, from $100 million to $200 million, triggering federal repayments.



Jan. 1 brought not only a new year but a new legal requirement under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. As originally enacted, the law requires employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent workers to offer affordable coverage to all full-time employees - the Obamacare employer mandate.


Full-time employees are defined as those working an average of 30 hours or more a week. That requires employers to ask how many full-time equivalent employees are employed and how many and which ones are full time working 30 or more hours a week.


The answers determine whether an employer must offer coverage and which employees are eligible.


Twice delayed, the employer mandate went into effect Jan. 1 for most "applicable large employers."


Companies with 100 or more full-time equivalent employees must offer affordable health plans or face a penalty. But, employers with 51-99 full-time equivalent workers have until Jan. 1, 2016, to offer insurance. Employers with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent workers are exempt.


[Use this chart to see if your business is an applicable large employer subject to the employer mandate, and use this penalty calculator to see how much you may be on the hook for.]



The U.S. House on Thursday in a 252-172 vote approved legislation that would waive fees on businesses that do not offer health insurance to employees working fewer than 40 hours per week, a position supported and urged by the Business Council of Alabama and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Alabama's House delegation voted along party lines, with the six Republicans voting for the bill and the state's sole Democrat voting against the bill. The Hill reported that the legislation, at the center of a heavy corporate lobbying campaign, got only 12 Democratic votes.


The bill that goes to the Senate - if it becomes law - would save companies $46 billion because it would reduce the number of companies liable for penalties, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised it will see a vote.


The Hill reported that the White House has threatened to veto the bill, which strikes at the health care law's mandate that businesses provide insurance. The legislation is the GOP's first chance to deliver an anti-ObamaCare bill to the president's desk. 

Republicans said the current 30-hour law gives employers an incentive to cut workers' hours to avoid paying fines as a result of the healthcare law. The health care law imposes fees on businesses that do not provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours per week.


Shelby Named to Lead Powerful U.S. Senate Committee

AL.com (Chambers 1/8) "Richard Shelby, Alabama's senior U.S. Senator, has been named chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs for the 114th Congress, according to a news release today from his office in Washington, D.C. Shelby was elected by the Republican members of the committee on Wednesday, and his appointment was confirmed today by the Senate Republican Conference, the release states. 


"'I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to implement policies that will foster economic growth'," Shelby said in the release. Shelby previously served as the chairman of the Banking Committee from 2003-2006.


"The committee has jurisdiction over legislation concerning many key subjects, including banks and other financial institutions; federal monetary policy, including the Federal Reserve System; money and credit, including currency and coinage; export and foreign trade promotion; and the renegotiation of government contracts."


Senate Committee Approves Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

McClatchy (Cockerham 1/9) "The Senate energy committee on a vote of 13 to 9 Thursday passed a bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, moving closer to a confrontation with the president on the issue. The House is expected to pass its own bill approving Keystone on Friday, followed by likely passage by the full Senate next week. President Obama has pledged to veto the bill, and it doesn't appear there is enough Keystone support in Congress to override his veto.


"'It is unfortunate that the Administration continues to stand in the way, even threatening to veto this important legislation'," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the chair of the committee. "I don't think that that threat should deter us as a committee, as a Senate, and really, as a Congress'.


"The measure passed the committee nearly on party lines, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., the only Democrat to join with the Republicans in supporting it. Opponents of the bill called it a special interest giveaway to TransCanada, the Canadian company that's proposing to build the pipeline.


"The pipeline would mostly bring Canadian oil from the Alberta oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Republicans said the project would create construction jobs and help the U.S. cut down on sources of oil from outside of North America. Obama has said that he is waiting for a Nebraska court ruling on the route and a final State Department ruling on whether Keystone is in the national interest before deciding whether Keystone should go."


(The Nebraska Supreme Court today approved the route of the proposed TransCanada Corp. Keystone XL pipeline through the state, clearing one major roadblock to the controversial Canada-to-Gulf Coast pipeline project. The Obama administration had cited the Nebraska case as one reason for delaying a final decision on the project.)

EPA Delays Rule to Cut Carbon From New Coal Power Plants

Associated Press (1/7) "The Obama administration on Wednesday said it would delay for months a final rule to control carbon dioxide emissions at new coal-fired power plants, thwarting for now one way the Republican-controlled Congress could have blocked the administration's plans on global warming.


"A final rule was due by law on Jan. 8, a year after it was first proposed. But the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday it would wait until midsummer, and issue the new power plant rules with a separate regulation aimed at cutting the pollution blamed for global warming from the existing coal-fired power fleet. That would put the rule weeks past the deadline set by President Barack Obama when he announced his second-term plans for climate in June 2013.


"The regulation sets the first-ever national limits on the carbon dioxide released by new coal-fired power plants, by requiring all new coal power plants that are built to capture some of the carbon and bury it underground. But even the EPA admitted in the proposal said the rule for new power plants would have little impact on greenhouse gases, because few if any new coal-fired power plants are planned."


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Sixth District
 U. S. Rep. Gary Palmer